Coghlan vows to put Luttrellstown back on course
FORMER world 5,000 metres champion Eamonn Coghlan is set for a new challenge as he prepares to take office as captain of Luttrellstown Castle for 2011.
And in typical style, Coghlan is bringing his athlete's focus and style to the task at a club that made the headlines for the wrong reasons in the last couple of years.
Luttrellstown's owners JP McManus, John Magnier and Aidan Brooks announced in December 2008 that the course was to close on December 31, 2009.
Most members left in early '09 for new pastures, including a sizeable cohort who took up a membership offer at Killeen Castle.
However, a number of the members decided to stay for the final 12 months -- and at the end of the year, instead of closing, Luttrellstown stayed open.
It has remained open during 2010 and has done a brisk business in green fees, due to competitive pricing and the standard of the course and facilities.
European Senior Tour pro Peter O'Hagan was confident enough about the future when he took up an offer to base his golf academy at Luttrellstown earlier this year, and now Coghlan is eager to help develop membership once again.
Coghlan had dabbled in golf at the occasional Celeb-Am event, but when Luttrellstown opened in 1992, he and wife Yvonne joined the club.
Given his competitive nature and sporting ability, Coghlan was determined to be good at this game, and though he soon discovered its vagaries and frustrations, eventually got his handicap from 18 to 12.
A bizarre motorcycle accident, in which Coghlan was stationary on his Suzuki 600c when a cyclist collided with his machine, sidelined the Dubliner for a considerable period -- and now his handicap is back to 18, but he's working hard to reduce it.
The injury kept him out of golf during the period when Luttrellstown suffered its crisis, but he had decided to stay on and see out the death throes of the club.
Now, Coghlan is optimistic about the future for the club.
"All the members were disappointed when the company gave notice in 2008, which they were entitled to do, that they would close at the end of 2009.
"I had a broken foot at the time, so there was no point me taking up membership anywhere else, so Yvonne and myself decided to see out the last year.
"We weren't sure what would happen in 2010, but they stayed open for this year and I was brought on board as vice-captain. In August they told us they were going to continue in business and that was great. "I believe it's worth my time and effort in helping to build up the club as a very good members club again. We had a great atmosphere and camaraderie in the past and we hope to repeat that.
"In that context, we're holding an open day for former members on December 15 and we are inviting people who may be interested in joining the club to contact us.
"At the moment we have about 75 members, and if we can bring that to between 150 to 200 next year that would be great. Luttrellstown will be doing their own marketing and we, as a committee, will do all we can to make it a good and vibrant club again," said Coghlan.
There is no entrance fee and annual sub is €2,000. Green fees range from €30-€35 from now until March.
Coghlan will formally take over from current captain, Jim Fergus, at the forthcoming AGM of the club.
And what about the inner biker which Coghlan has found within himself?
"Motorcycling, from the point of view of a hobby, almost replaced running for me. I love doing the exams and learning more about the skills -- it's just something I like doing.
"It started in 2006 when I was director of fundraising for Crumlin Children's Hospital and a group volunteered to travel across the US by motorcycle.
"I met them in Chicago and when I saw them, I got really interested. I used to have a motorbike when I was a kid, but this got me going and I bought a 600cc Suzuki Bandit.
"I now have a 1,000c Suzuki and Yvonne and myself did a charity run in the US in which we travelled 3,000 miles in two weeks. It's great fun," said Coghlan.